Mac vs. PC, again

mac-vs-pc-advertMac vs. PC, again: a reader asks…

So my old HP is on its last leg — I can actually hear the chugging noise! I am looking at the new HP – 360 Envy 15 inch screens. I like the idea of tablet and PC functionality. Then in the back of my mind I wonder if now is the time to make the switch to an Apple platform? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

It’s an age-old question of Mac vs. PC, it’s really become a matter of personal preference, not money. Here’s two scenarios:

Mac: You pay a higher cost up-front (from $1,000-2,500), and perhaps add MS Office for Mac (to get Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook) if you want to use those Windows programs on your Mac. You might have to update the operating system once a year or so, other updates are automatic. Use the Mac for 7-10 years and then it’s time to go shopping again.

Microsoft Windows PC: You pay a lower cost up-front (from $400-2,000), and perhaps add MS Office. You purchase some good computer security (about $100 each year if you go with my recommended trio: Bitdefender Internet Security 2016, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium and Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Premium). You’ll have a bunch of automatic updates that happen all the time, plus a bunch of updates you either ignore or do manually. Use the PC for 3-6 years and then go shopping.

So in a 10-year period, you’ve probably spent about the same amount of money either way, with the Mac it’s pretty much all up-front while the PC will have expenditures over time. Plus, Windows PCs are notorious for having problems (very much less so than a Mac), so there’s that to deal with. All in all using a Mac is easier for most people.

But if you’re used to a PC, you may find the switchover to a Mac to be daunting (it isn’t), and you will have to learn some new ways to do some things (but most is very similar). For most people, it takes about an hour to get used to the basic differences, and a few weeks before they are proficient at all the daily tasks done on a computer.

If there are any specific programs you use on your HP, let me know what they are in the comments and I’ll let you know what Mac version (maybe a different program that performs the same function) you would get. But for doing the regular things we all do with our computers, the Mac pretty much comes with all the programs you need.

image of laptop computer, image from Shutterstock.comAs a tech professional, I have to use both Mac and PC. I’m very comfortable with the PC, and pretty comfortable with a Mac as well. I will tell you that the next computer I buy for my own personal use will be a Mac, they are so much less work and hassle to keep them performing, and they are very easy to use. I currently have a 2011 Macbook Air I use daily, and will probably replace the all-in-one PC in my kitchen with an iMac sometime in the next year or so. Not that I’m a Mac fanboy (!), I still have a few Windows PCs I use for specialty jobs like video editing. Since you’re focused on a portable factor, an iMac wouldn’t make sense for you, you’d be choosing between the Macbook Air and the Macbook Pro. The latter is more powerful, but you can get it in the 15″ screen size (the Air’s largest model is 13″). You can skip the new Macbook as the screen is only 12″.


All that said, looking over the current crop of laptop/tablet crossovers, think the Lenovo Yoga would be a better option for you than the HP 360 Envy – that is if you really want a combination tablet/laptop. Like you, I like the idea (one less thing to deal with), but in practice I’ve run across plenty of issues. Foremost, being heavier than a true tablet can get in the way of using it as a tablet. For example, I often use my tablet holding it in one hand to read or watch movies, etc. You’ll likely not be doing that with a combo laptop/tablet.

ms-surface-book-image-from-microsoftdotcomIn my humble opinion, the best iteration of a Windows PC that’s both a good laptop and a good tablet is actually the Microsoft Surface Book. That’s partly because it uses high quality components (it should, it’s expensive!), but also because the keyboard detaches when you want to use it as a tablet, jettisoning that weight. But it’s going to cost a lot more than the HP model or even the Lenovo.

My personal feeling is that the tablet/laptop hybrid is a fad, and will peter out just like netbooks did (remember netbooks?). There are too many design compromises you have to make in these devices. It’s enough of a design challenge to fit good components into a thin and light laptop, adding the necessary hardware changes to make it function as a tablet means trading off good laptop functionality – you end up with a device that really isn’t the best at either role.

hp-envy-15-image-from-hpdotcomThe decision is yours to make, and is really a personal decision. There are people who just hate Macs, and people who just hate PCs. There is something to be said about sticking with what you’re used to, but that philosophy can make you lose out on some great new technology – it’s always getting better!

And I simply have to mention that the HP Envy 360 line is the cheaper alternative to the HP Spectre 360 line. About $300 more, but you get a much better quality build, and a solid-state hard drive.

Finally, I should mention that once you’ve made your choice, you should take a look at two articles I’ve previously written about moving to a new computer:

  1. What to do when your computer is old and ready to retire:
  2. What to do once you get a new computer:

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  1. Ed Roberts

    Hi Chris,

    I have a desktop PC for home and received a MacBook Retina from work, which I use that whenever I need a laptop. If someone needs to run a PC-only application on a Mac, I recommend considering Parallels Desktop. I wouldn’t consider it for an older or lower-power Mac, but on a newer, faster Mac it is almost seamless, and has the benefit of being able to share files between the PC apps and Mac apps. I wouldn’t recommend jumping in without testing it first, but I’ve been very happy with Parallels. Cost is definitely a consideration because you have to add Parallels ($80 or more) AND a Windows 10 license to the already steep cost of the Mac. What do you think?

    • Thanks for your comment Ed! Absolutely, Parallels Desktop gives you the best of both worlds on one laptop (albeit a Mac, you can’t run OS X on any PC without a lot of hacking). While Mac users have had BootCamp for awhile, it forces you to restart your Mac to go into Windows and restart again to return to the Mac. Parallels gives you a ‘virtual’ computer environment and you can run the Windows operating system and Windows apps in a … window … Using “Coherence mode” you can even run just specific Windows applications in a Mac window. But I should mention that as powerful and versatile as Parallels is, the cost is something to contend with. It’s not just the fact that Parallels costs money, but also that it’s more complicated to install, setup and use, and it gives slower performance than BootCamp. If all you want to do is occasionally play a Windows game, then BootCamp is probably the better option. If you regularly need access to Windows as well as Mac applications, then Parallels is the better answer. Parallels has a bit of a learning curve to get it setup and working right, but I think it’s well worth the effort.

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